Category Archives: Spiritual lessons

Goodwill for the homeless?

I don’t need to look far in San Francisco so see what homeless looks like here. Several homeless people camp outside my son’s office in the Mission District. Matted hair, dirty face and hands, worldly possessions stuffed into a garbage bag stuffed into a shopping cart pinched from Safeway.

In the past month of radical downsizing I delivered to Goodwill the equivalent of a dozen shopping carts-full of perfectly good clothing and under-used household goods.  And several more cart-full equivalents to other local charities.

What does Goodwill DO with all that stuff?

I had washed and neatly folded the sheets, blankets, and quilts. I tried to pin, tape or tie shoelaces together, pants and jackets of suits, lids and pots, so that they would actually be useful to someone.  However when I got to Goodwill the man placed anything that seemed hard (shoes, pots etc) into one bin, and tossed everything soft into a bin marked “fabric”.

Suddenly I remembered that my friend Kristen goes to the Goodwill outlet (can you believe, even Goodwill has an outlet!) and pays something like a dollar for five pounds of fabric (which could be anything from perfectly good sheets, sweaters, kid’s overalls, to rags).  She uses it for various forms of fabric art.

I wanted to snatch back the quilts and blankets. Hey! That could go to the guy on Ethan’s corner who sleeps under pieces of cardboard.  Even if that sweater was a little “tired” (as Judi called a few of my clothes) and beyond reselling, it would keep someone on the street warm on a winter’s night.

If you go into a Goodwill these days, you’ll see that they have quite a retail operation going. In fact in my town alone there are at least two “Goodwill Superstores.” Salvation Army is another that has expanded mightily – but I don’t donate to them because I don’t appreciate their missionary zeal.

If I’d had more time and energy during the downsize process I’d have researched the most direct and cost-effective places to get my good stuff to the folks who need it most. Goodwill was close by and easy.

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Filed under Downsizing, Emotional issues, Resources, Spiritual lessons

How am I doing?

People who know how much I love this house ask me how I’m holding up under the impending sale and move (of my stuff) into a storage unit.

Surprisingly, astonishingly even, FINE. I’ve been too busy to get emotional – or something like that. It’s been a process that I’ve thought about for a few years and began actively working on this summer. At this point the edge has softened and it’s just WORK.

The endlessness of the work and the logistical organizing of what needs to be done when is the most stressful. I am not good in the logistics department, so I’ve been fortunate to have friends and family members talk me down and through some mental tangles.

Once you start getting rid of stuff, and once you realize how little other people value your stuff when you try to sell it, it begins to lose value in your own eyes. It becomes, well, STUFF.

After my mini-sabbatical in California after the house closes on 12/11 I’ll be back in town, staying with dear friends, taking my time to figure out what’s next.

What’s clear is that my friends and family are my greatest treasures. All else is just STUFF.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life, Getting organized, Inspiration & encouragement, Priorities, Selling stuff, Spiritual lessons

Getting to Nothing: the firestorm method

firedamagedhouse

Someone sent me a short TED talk by filmaker David Hoffman whose house had burned to the ground nine days before he came to the TED conference. For a man who lost his entire film and photo collection, not to mention his STUFF, he was quite chirpy about it all.

I just looked at it, I didn’t know what to do. I mean…was I my things? I always live in the present – I love the present. I cherish the future…

[I lost it all in] Twenty minutes! Epiphany hit me, something hit me. “You’ve got to make something good of something bad.”

Maybe he’s telling the truth and this stunning loss is just another minor pimple on the ass of progress to him. Or maybe after nine days he’s still in shock and denial.

I knew a woman who lost everything in the Oakland hills fire back in October 1991. She had been a marriage counselor, married to a (overbearing asshole)  psychiatrist. A year later she had divorced him, quit her counseling practice and gotten a real estate sales license. She had also begun studying for her own Bat Mitzvah (which she finally had, at 55).

Although she had had a beautiful home filled with lovely things, she told me it was the best thing that ever happened to her.

I don’t think I want to take that route…

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Filed under Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Inspiration & encouragement, Spiritual lessons

Let go of the little things

Sometimes letting go of the smallest things opens big doors.

joyThis is embarrassing. I just tossed two bottles of perfume that have sat on my bureau or bathroom counter for decades.

I haven’t worn perfume in decades.

The bottle of Joy has been with me since the boat trip I took across the Atlantic (Quebec to Le Havre) right after college. A dashing member of the German crew gave it to me as a momento of our brief but torrid shipboard romance. (My name is Joy and that was a very popular and expensive fragrance at the time).

As you might imagine, the fragrance in the bottles bore no resemblance to what the perfumiers originally bottled.  So why did I not discard them years ago???

Well – they were gifts with special memories attached. They were small. What harm is something that takes so little space? And you never know… I just might want to wear a dab some time….

This morning the veil fell from my eyes. I emptied the bottles down the sink and put the empties into the recycle bin.

It felt like a major victory.

Woo-woo postscript from yoga class later in the morning. Our teacher has two little baskets from which we can draw random words on which to focus in class – one contains round river rocks and the other contains cards (with words in English and Sanskrit). You can use the words as areas on which to focus your intention for the class.

From the middle of the pile in each basket I drew (not peeking) a rock that said “Joy” and a card that said “Joy.”   Then the dharma talk at the beginning of class centered on vairagya, learning to let go of attachments.  Oh yeah.

Attachments R Us.

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Family issues, Spiritual lessons

Plenitude: its dark underbelly

Plenitude: abundance, copiousness; the condition of being full, complete. From Latin: plenus = full.

Whenever you’re feeling cranky, mingy and stingy, like you just don’t have ENOUGH (enough whatever – money, love, time), the pop psychology wisdom is to open your heart to the gifts you already have and to feel gratitude for the bounty in your life.

And I do that. I feel grateful for the abundance in my life most of the time.
I am satisfied and want not.

However.  Plenitude is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.

I’ve got TOO MUCH of a good thing. Too much of MANY good things. Too big a house. Too big a (beautiful) garden. Too many books. Too many interests. Too many commitments.  My life is plenus to the max.

Though you can never have too many friends.

A feng shui colleague of mine suggests that if you want something new in your life (new career, partner, social circle, home) you have to go beyond ordinary clutter clearing. You have to create a VACUUM. Only when there’s a nice big hole will something rush in to fill it.

Here’s the experiment: after I jettison half my stuff and find a place half as big as my current home, what other opportunities will appear?

And if I’d complete my divorce and stop being friends with my ex, will a new romance appear?

Stay tuned.

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Filed under Downsizing, Practical feng shui, Spiritual lessons

Possessed shoppers poleax Wal-Mart employee

Possessed: v. urgently desirous to do or have something, influenced or controlled by something (as an evil spirit, a passion, or an idea), crazed

Poleaxed: v. to attack, strike, or fell as if with a battle ax (poleax)

What have we come to as a society, when holiday shoppers are so anxious for a bargain that they will trample a store employee to death? We’re not talking about starving people rampaging for food.

These folks are rampaging for CRAP – cheesy gifts for their loved ones who are already paralyzed by having more toys than they can ever use.

From today’s paper:

At 4:55 a.m., just five minutes before the doors were set to open, a crowd of 2,000 anxious shoppers started pushing, shoving and piling against the locked sliding glass doors of the Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., Nassau County police said. The shoppers broke the doors off their hinges and surged in, toppling a 34-year-old temporary employee, Jdimypai Damour, 34, of Jamaica, Queens, who had been waiting with other workers in the store’s entryway.People did not stop to help the employee as he lay on the ground, and they pushed against other Wal-Mart workers who were trying to aid Mr. Damour. The crowd kept running into the store even after the police arrived, jostling and pushing officers who were trying to perform CPR, the police said.

“They were like a stampede,” said Nassau Det. Lt. Michael Fleming. “Hundreds of people walked past him, over him or around him.”

My heart breaks for this young man’s family.

This Christmas my family is giving nothing or just regifting for the adults. The two grandkids will get a couple of things, but mostly we’ll be doing stuff together. None of us needs anything.

What are you doing?

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Spiritual lessons

Praying to false idols?

I thought Christians didn’t worship false idols. But what do I know, Unitarian-Buddhist-Pagan that I am? According to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Prayers are needed for global economy:

In January of this year, Cindy Jacobs was in a worship service when the Lord spoke to her, “Cindy, the strongman over America doesn’t live in Washington, DC – the strongman lives in New York City! Call My people to pray for the economy.” …

For these and other reasons Cindy is calling for a Day of Prayer for the World’s Economies on Wednesday, October 29, 2008. They are calling for prayer for the stock markets, banks, and financial institutions of the world on the date the stock market crashed in 1929. They are meeting at the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank, and its 12 principal branches around the US that day.

We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the ‘Lion’s Market,’ or God’s control over the economic systems,” she said.  “While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble.”

So hundreds crowd about the sacred bull on Wall Street:

We are as mad as Midas.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Funny, Spiritual lessons